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The 2016 Summer Olympics are in full force and I’m loving every minute of it! A couple nights ago, I was struck by an interview with gold-medal swimmer, Katie Ledecky. This one small phrase packed a punch and stopped me in my tracks:
“What you put in is what you get out” she said. Her words are wise and they apply to every aspect of our lives, not just training to be a world champion swimmer. It's especially true when we want to teach our kids how to be more cooperative!
As a mom, I see this played out in my home all the time. When I become caught up in the everyday aspects of life, it’s easy for me to function in “damage control” mode with my kids. I traverse through my day putting out one fire and then another, never feeling very successful and certainly not feeling like my parenting is meaningful.
But when I am proactive, preventing fires before they begin, my parenting changes for the better and so does the tone and spirit of my home. Having a more peace-filled home requires that I “put in” the creativity, intention, and hard work required to have the best possible outcome.
Parenting was never meant to have an auto-pilot feature!
So let’s get specific.
Here are 5 ways that we can be proactive parents, “putting in” the work ahead of time to shape cooperative kids and create happier homes:
1.) Schedule your day.
Plans can turn upside down, but for the most part, mapping out an agenda and writing it down is a game changer! This year, I’m using the Passion Planner to get organized—love it! Play dates, work phone calls, and grocery runs are all organized so that my stress levels drop! When we are organized, cooperation is much easier to develop in our children!
2.) Set a timer.
One of my sons is going through a season where he is struggling with wanting what he wants right when he wants it. I want to help him but I have to have a plan for that too! I set the timer on my phone so that several times a day I am reminded to say something to him that addresses his heart or reminds me to pray for him. Sometimes it’s as simple as, “Hey Son, I appreciate it when you don’t complain about the food on your plate. Thanks for being content.” The key is being intentional and the timer helps me do that!
3.) Set them up for success.
So often, my kids find their own activities to play and keep them occupied but it helps tremendously if I have at least two options prepared for them over the course of the day. I switch bins of toys out from the garage for “new” things to play with or set out play dough on the table. Then I tell them that for the next hour, they can choose to work with either option. They often just need me to steer them in the right direction!
4.) Enlist help.
As a type A personality, I tend to just get things done myself when I should be involving my sons more often. This week we had mounds of toys all jumbled together in some baskets that needed sorting. I offered the boys a dollar each to conquer the task for me. They spent a good hour and a half working as a team to place toys and parts in piles all around the living room and then bagging them for me before putting them away.
5.) Role play.
If a child is struggling in a particular area, I need to schedule some role playing into our day. For example, if my son has a habit of screeching “STOP” when a sibling does something he doesn’t like, I gather my three boys together and tell them we are going to work on our tone of voice. I ask boy 1 to play with a train set. Then I ask boy 2 to take his train off the track without asking. I tell boy 1 to screech “STOP” in an angry tone. Then I explain that is the WRONG way to react and speak. So, we are going to try something that is more gentle and kind. I ask for their suggestions—they usually know exactly what to do instead. So we practice. Same scene but this time boy 1 says something like, “please don’t take my train” instead of his first screechy reaction. Boy 2 practices saying asking first or simply complies and learns to play with something else. I praise them profusely!!! Be sure to make it fun—and watch how their behavior changes for the better with consistency and proactive role playing!
Parents, we will often get better behavior from our kids if we are willing to embrace the truth that “what you put in is what you get out”. There are always exceptions, I know, but for the most part, our intentional and positive practices to create peace in our homes and train them toward right behavior will often lead to happier days!
We may never be Olympic gold-medalists but we can be the champions of our homes by applying the same principles for success. For me, that kind of victory is just as sweet.